An Overview of Oracle® Forms Server Architecture

An Oracle® Technical White Paper April 2000

or take your existing Forms. so let’ examine it in detail.INTRODUCTION This paper is designed to provide you with an overview of some of the key points of the Oracle® Forms Server architecture and the processes involved when forms are deployed over the Web. s Components The Forms Server consists of a Java Client that is downloaded automatically to the end user and three components in the middle tier “ Application Server:” Figure 1 illustrates how a form runs on the web. There are some restrictions inherent in using Forms over the web. and these are explained in the section “ Forms Server Restrictions. without compromising either functionality or richness of interface.” The architecture of the Forms Server is more complex than that of the conventional Client/Server implementation of the product. Menus and Libraries that are currently deployed in Client Server and move them to Web deployment almost without change. You can build new applications specifically for Web deployment. Using the Forms Server you can run complex applications over the Internet. An Overview of Oracle Forms Server Architecture April 2000 ® .

you don’ have to generate Java code for every application or form that you want to web t deploy. except that all user interface functionality is redirected to the Java Client (above). Menus and Libraries files that would be used for running in Client/Server mode on the same platform. and handles user interaction and visual feedback such as that generated by navigating between items or checking a checkbox. No conversion or re-compilation is required to web-deploy an application! • Forms Server Listener: The Forms Server Listener acts as a broker.Figure 1. The code that will be run by the Forms Server Runtime Engine are the same Forms. making the connection from the Java Client complete as quickly as possible. This applet is the same for any Form that is run using it. This Java Client provides the user interface for the associated Forms Server Runtime Engine on the server. Running a Form on the Web • Java Applet: When a user runs a Forms session over the web. The Forms Server Runtime Engine is the process that maintains a connection to the database on behalf of the Java Client. An Overview of Oracle Forms Server Architecture April 2000 ® 3 . The Listener can also maintain a pool of running engines ready for connection. a thin 100 percent pure Java Client dynamically downloads from the Application Server. taking connection requests from the Java Client processes and initiating a Forms Server Runtime process on their behalf. • Forms Server Runtime Engine: The Forms Server Runtime Engine performs the same function as the Client Server Runtime Engine.

Figure 2 illustrates the steps that establish a Forms session with the Forms Server. Forms Connection Process in Detail An Overview of Oracle Forms Server Architecture April 2000 ® 4 . Figure 2.• Forms CGI (optional): The Forms GCI provides a single entry point to many different Forms applications and administers load balancing. now let’ look at the connection process ve s itself. CONNECTION PROCESS IN DETAIL We’ looked at the components that make up the Forms Server.

6. the Forms Listener starts a new Forms Runtime engine for this client. The Web Server interprets the URL that is passed and displays an HTML page containing an <APPLET> tag that describes the Forms Java Client to the Browser. when using the Forms CGI program. You can configure the Forms Server to hold a pool of unconnected Runtime engines which can be allocated as connection requests come in. The user chooses a Link from a web page. The Forms Server Listener hands off the connection to the Java Client and has no further part in the process. color schemes etc. The files may be downloaded individually or as an “ Archive” This archive will have an extension of .CLASS or . The APPLET definition also contains instructions on what Forms Server to run and many parameters which can help you to customize aspects of the Java Client such as the Look and Feel. 3. The APPLET CODEBASE parameter in the HTML file is used to define this. loading the module specified in the serverArgs entry in the HTML file and any libraries and menus that are required by that form. or the URL that is passed could call the Forms Server CGI program to create a HTML page dynamically.1. 10. then JInitiator will carry out the additional step of checking the version of the Forms Client Java code available on the Web Server and will only download it if it turns out to be newer that any version that JInitiator currently has cached. The <APPLET> tag in the HTML file will supply the information required to locate the Java Class files that make up the Forms Java Client. and the connection to the database server is established. FORMS SERVER LOAD BALANCING The Forms Developer Server provides the facility to load balance. The . If this particular HTML file specified that JInitiator should be used. 9. and any other parameters that you want to pass to your Forms session. The HTML page may be a static HTML page that has all of its parameters hard-coded into it . The user is prompted for database login information. After receiving the connection request from the Java Client. if this had not already been supplied. The user is now ready to work. 4.” each of which would run a Web Server and the Forms Server. The use of a JAR file speeds up the download of the Java Client. 5. Within the APPLET tag in the HTML file you would also supply information about the Form that should be run. 2. An Overview of Oracle Forms Server Architecture April 2000 ® 5 .JAR files are downloaded (if not already present) to the Browser and the Java applet starts. thus speeding up the whole connection process.JAR file should be used. The ARCHIVE parameter defines which (if any) . This allows you to maintain a pool of middle tier machines a “ Server Farm. The Client receives the HTML file served by the Web Server. The Browser asks the Web Server for the Java Class files from the location specified in the HTML file. The HTML file might also contain other HTML tags such as those to tell the browser to run this particular applet using the JInitiator Plug-in (see JInitiator).JAR and can be best thought of as a . 8. The Forms Listener will have already been started and will be listening for incoming requests on this particular socket.ZIP file containing all of individual . types a URL directly or passes the URL as an argument to the applet viewer. The Java Client applet connects to the Forms Server Listener by talking to the TCP/IP socket or HTTP port defined by the serverPort parameter in the APPLET Tag. 7.CLASS files required by the Applet. The Forms Server Runtime Engine allocated to this client takes over. . such as the Login information.

An Overview of Oracle Forms Server Architecture April 2000 ® 6 . the sequence of events to create a Forms session is slightly different. the number of Forms processes that are currently running on that particular machine. When users connect to the Forms CGI (see below) that is set up for load balancing. rather than either upgrading or throwing out that machine.Load Balancing provides you with a more scaleable configuration. you can just add more nodes to run your application and spread the increasing load across several machines rather than one. • Forms Load Balancing Client The Client runs on each of the machines allocated to be in the “ Server Farm. When a user connects to the Forms CGI in a load balancing situation.” its job is to simply report to the Load Balancing Server with loading information. When you approach the limits of your current hardware. that is. two extra components of the Forms Server are utilized: • Forms Load Balancing Server The Server maintains information about all machines currently allocated to the “ Server Farm” and their current loading.

the URL supplied by the user is passed to the Forms CGI. 3. In this case. 2. The Forms CGI will already have been configured to know that it should be load balancing and will ask the Load Balancing Server for the member if the Server Farm that currently has the lowest number of Forms Server processes running. This scaling factor will allow you to skew the loading in favor of more powerful machines. rather than the choice of least loaded server being determined solely by the number of processes running. The Load Balancing Server is continually appraised of the process loading on each of the Load Balancing Clients on machines within the server farm.Figure 3. If your Server Farm consists of a mix of different hardware platforms or configurations then scaling factors can be applied when starting the Load Balancing Clients. ® An Overview of Oracle Forms Server Architecture April 2000 7 . Running a Form in a Load Balancing Scenario 1.

Having determined the machine in the Server Farm that is best able to handle this new connection. The first thing that you would notice when running a Forms application over the Web is that the Windows have a bright yellow bar across the button bearing the legend “ Warning Applet Window” This is Java’ way of reminding you that you downloaded this program from . s someone you can’ necessarily trust! t 1 It is important to note the difference between a Java Applet and a Java application. The user’ browser will now download the Forms Java Applet from this dynamically determined location. As the US relaxes laws for the export of encryption technologies. the Java virtual machine that runs in the web browser or appletviewer strictly controls what the applet can do. C’ An Overview of Oracle Forms Server Architecture April 2000 ® 8 .1 as a protocol for Internet use where Firewalls prevent the use of a direct socket connection. the Java Applet implementing the user interface and the Forms Server engine need to communicate. 128-bit encryption will become available for all users. t In the case of a Java Application. This encryption can be turned off optionally. this is where the Java code is sourced from your machine and therefore is implicitly trusted to behave responsibly with your hard-disk etc. all of the traffic that is transmitted between the Client and Forms Engine is encrypted using 40bit RSA encoding. but we would not recommend that sites do this. it won’ be able to escape from the sandbox t and therefore won’ be able to damage your machine. HTTPS currently supports 128-bit encryption for US domestic customers and 40-bit for non-US customers. 5. This is termed the sandbox. or using HTTP/1.4. applications running within the sandbox do not have access to objects outside of it such as memory. in the same way that any normal ‘ program would be. printers etc. and s thereafter the rest of the connection process will take place to this machine. the Forms CGI will build an HTML file pointing the browser at that server for the download of the Java Applet and connection to a Forms Server Listener. the local hard drive. As an Applet is by definition downloaded off of the Web. This can be done using a conventional TCP/IP Sockets connection for intranet use. For more information on the use of HTTP with Oracle Developer Forms Server and security/firewall issues generally see the Oracle White Paper: Deploying Internet Applications using HTTP Enabled Oracle Developer Server. In either case. COMMUNICATIONS AND SECURITY When running the Forms Server. SECURITY CONSTRAINTS IMPOSED BY JAVA As the thin client portion of the Forms Server is written in Java. it has to comply with certain restrictions that Java Applets1 have imposed upon them. Also available as an option is the use of Secure Sockets Layer (HTTPS) instead of Sockets or HTTP to provide a further layer of security. So if you access a web page that attempts to download a rogue Java application onto your machine.

An Overview of Oracle Forms Server Architecture April 2000 ® 9 . • Ensures a consistent JVM between different browsers. use the clipboard and of course you don’ get the bright yellow warning any more! t When you install Jinitiator. the JVM will check its credentials using the stored certificate information. when you download an applet which claims to be the Forms Server Applet. the applet will be trusted and able to print. Additionally. JINITIATOR JInitiator is Oracle's version of Sun's Java Plug-In. Then.As well as the warning you’ find that the Java Virtual Machine prevents you from carrying out simple tasks ll such as printing the screen or copying data onto the clipboard. by registering a Certificate that we supply with the Java Virtual Machine. which provides the ability to specify the use of a specific Java Virtual Machine on the client instead of using the browser's default JVM. Oracle JInitiator runs as a plugin for Netscape Navigator and as an ActiveX component for Internet Explorer. • Developer Server Scalability Testing (December 1998). PERFORMANCE AND SCALABILITY A lot of work has been done with the Forms Developer Server to make it as performant as possible from end to end and giving you performance that you would expect from a Client-Server implementation. These constraints can of course be a little too restrictive. allowing customers to run Oracle Developer Server applications using Netscape Navigator or Internet Explorer. The Oracle JInitiator provides these major benefits: • Allows the latest Oracle-certified JVM to run in older browser releases. Therefore you can choose to “ trust” Oracle Forms Developer on your machine. and if all matches. know where the code has come from. we automatically register the Forms Certificates for you. and no client software installs! Details of how to leverage the maximum scalability and performance from the Forms Server can be found in the White Paper: Oracle Developer Server: How to Optimize the Deployment of Internet Applications. when you do in fact. if you would like more “ Real” World” information about Oracle Developer Server scalability and performance refer to the following White Papers: • Scaleable Web Deployment with Oracle Developer Server – A Benchmark Comparison of Client/Server and Web Deployment by Retek Information Systems (December 1998). but with the vastly reduced administrative overheads of Web Deployment. which is true in the case of Oracle Forms Developer.

providing fast application start-up. or alternatively you use a Java Bean. As the user interface is not on the same machine as the runtime engine. It is possible to implement this functionality by writing a trusted Java bean which can be embedded into the Forms application and access the local operating system. ORA_FFI and Host commands all execute on the middle tier. Application class files are automatically cached by the JInitiator. • Local devices. and VBX controls are not supported. The Triggers that would normally be executed by Forms in a client server deployment have been disabled when running on the web. By default this is not possible as there is (as was mentioned above) no way of programmatically accessing the browsers local machine from within the Java Applet. Customers often ask if they can utilise devices such as Barcode scanners attached to their browser machines and integrate them with Forms running over the web. • TEXT_IO.0 of Developer Forms Server supports the use of Java Beans.• Provides functional extensions to the basic JVM such as SSL support. Oracle JInitiator has been thoroughly tested and certified for use with the Oracle Developer Server. Reading and writing files using the Text_io package will again take place in the middle tier. you can replace the functionality provided by the Windows Specific control with a similar Bean. As version 6. FORMS SERVER RESTRICTIONS Although the Forms server allows you to deploy your existing applications without major changes. there is no way for the control to display. Oracle JInitiator automatically installs and updates itself like a plug-in or an Active-X component. You cannot read a “ Local” file off of the end users machine. unless the user’ drive is shared and visible from the s Forms Server machine. Local cached application class files will be automatically updated from the application server based on a date-time stamp comparison. • Mouse Move. • User_Exits. • Provides a reliable deployment platform. • Is a self-installing and self-updating deployment environment. Mouse Enter and Mouse Leave events. This implies that they cannot carry out any user interface interaction as the display being used by the user is not the same display as the middle tier. This prevents the network from being swamped with mouse messages between the Forms Java Client and the middle tier. An Overview of Oracle Forms Server Architecture April 2000 ® 10 . not on the Java Client. • Is a performant deployment environment. some restrictions are imposed by the three-tier architecture which you will need to take into account: • OCX. Copyright © Oracle Corporation 2000 All Rights Reserved This document is provided for informational purposes only. Worldwide Inquiries: +1. and Oracle8i.S. Please report any errors herein to Oracle Corporation.A. Oracle8. Oracle is a registered trademark. PL/SQL. and the information herein is subject to change without notice.650. All other company and product names mentioned are used for identification purposes only and may be trademarks of their respective owners.Oracle Corporation World Headquarters 500 Oracle Parkway Redwood Shores. Oracle Corporation does not provide any warranties covering and specifically disclaims any liability in connection with this document. and Oracle Forms are trademarks of Oracle Corporation.7000 Fax +1.7200 . CA 94065 U.

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